Burglar wins 4-year fight for release from prison PASADENA

April 01, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Former burglar, recovering drug addict and high school dropout Raymond Horsman walked into the Anne Arundel Courthouse yesterday with 21 years of mandatory prison time ahead of him.

He walked out facing 72 hours.

Judge Raymond G. Thieme ordered that Horsman's sentence of 25 years without parole, imposed four years ago after a series of housebreakings, be reduced to 10 years.

He also suspended the 10-year term and placed him on five years probation, a ruling which means the 28-year-old Pasadena construction worker should be released in the next 72 hours, his lawyer said.

The decision ended a four-year, $30,000 legal battle fought by his mother, a Pasadena hairdresser who worked two jobs to pay for lawyers, developed insomnia over her son's case and burst into tears when his freedom was announced.

She said it was worth every penny.

"It's unbelievable. It's taken us all this time just to get this far," said an emotional Ruth Horsman, who turned and hugged one of her two daughters when the decision was announced. "I really feel sorry for the kids who this may have happened to, who didn't get the support, didn't have anyone there for them."

The release came after a brief sentencing hearing yesterday sought by Stuart R. Berger, a Baltimore attorney who won a new trial for Horsman Nov. 2, 1992 after an appeal that focused on errors by his previous attorney.

Yesterday's hearing was the result of a plea agreement reached by Mr. Berger and prosecutors. Judge Thieme accepted Horsman's plea to attempted daytime housebreaking and then pronounced the suspended prison sentence.

Prior to the ruling, Horsman said that looking at the specter of 25 years behind bars turned his life around.

While at the Eastern Correctional Institute he has earned his General Equivalency Diploma, three years of credit. He also has maintained a B-plus average at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore and taught fellow inmates to read. He hopes to earn a degree in psychology and use it to counsel troubled youths.

"What I want to do is teach other children, help them to sort out their problems, so that they don't go the way that I did," he told Judge Thieme.

Court records show that Horsman had a cocaine habit when he was convicted in an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court trial Sept. 22, 1988 of breaking and entering. The records show a neighbor saw him using a crowbar to try to pry his way into a Brooklyn Park home in the 300 block of 12th Ave.

Horsman, who had been convicted in five previous break-ins in Howard and Baltimore counties, was notified after the trial that the Anne Arundel State's Attorney would be seeking a sentence of 25 years without parole.

Maryland's mandatory sentencing statute gives prosecutors that option in cases of three-time felony offenders.

Mr. Berger, retained after the sentencing, filed an appeal based on arguments that Horsman had ineffective counsel.

He said Timothy Murnane, a former assistant public defender now in private practice, failed to ask about prior convictions before Horsman's March 28, 1989 trial.

That meant Horsman was unaware before trial that if convicted, his previous convictions would expose him to the possibility of the 25-year term, Mr. Berger said.

The appeal was heard last July by Judge Robert Heller, who granted the new trial and set the stage for Judge Thieme's decision yesterday.

Mr. Murnane said yesterday that he had worked out a plea PTC agreement that would have meant an eight-year sentence. But Horsman rejected it prior to his trial.

He added that he wanted Horsman to win a new trial -- so he didn't defend his performance at the hearing before Judge Heller July 20.

"I went in there with my hands tied behind my back," so the judge would grant a new trial, he said. "I felt and I still feel that a new trial is justified. Whether it's for the wrong reason or not, it's the right result."

Mr. Berger, while acknowledging Mr. Murnane was a sympathetic witness who agreed that a new trial was appropriate, said Horsman's freedom can be traced largely to the mother's determination.

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